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Breast-feeding May Lower Blood Pressure in Childhood

It has been reported that individuals who were breast-fed during infancy appear to have decreased risk of death from heart disease. Now, new research suggests that this may be due to blood pressure-lowering effects of breast-feeding.
“The wider promotion of breast-feeding is a potential component of the public health strategy to reduce population levels of blood pressure,” the researchers suggest in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The findings are based on a study of 4,763 non-twin, full-term infants who had their blood pressures determined at 7.5 years of age. Questionnaires were also sent to the mothers to assess breast-feeding during infancy.
Dr. Richard M. Martin, from the University of Bristol in the UK, and colleagues found that breast-fed children had systolic blood pressure-the top number of the blood pressure reading–1.2 mm Hg lower than those of children who were not breast-fed. The corresponding decrease for diastolic pressure-the lower number of the blood pressure reading–was 0.9 mm Hg
After Martin’s group took into consideration various demographic factors that could contribute to the development of high blood pressure, the effects of breast-feeding were lessen, although still statistically significant.
The findings did not differ between infants who were breast-fed only and those who received a combination of breast milk and formula, the authors note. However, the duration of breast-feeding did have an effect; for each three-month period of feeding, the systolic pressure fell by 0.2 mm Hg.
Although breast-feeding was only linked to a small reduction in blood pressure, this could still have a strong impact on heart disease mortality, Martin said in a statement.
“A one-percent reduction in population systolic blood pressure levels is associated with about a 1.5-percent reduction in all-cause mortality, equivalent to a lessening in premature death of about 8000 to 2000 deaths per year in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively,” he added.

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